Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Mike Feehan, Mark Morales and Paul Mounts
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Writer Mark Russell returns with another subversively entertaining take on a Hanna-Barbera staple in the debut of Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles. The year is 1953. The House Committee on Un-American Activities have started hounding playwrights and creatives for “subversive work and acts,” but one rising star on Broadway has yet to feel the heat from their grilling: Snagglepuss.
Thus begins Mark Russell, Mike Feehan, Mark Morales, and Paul Mounts’ sharp-witted slice of life which follows the closeted playwright as he attempts to keep his professional and personal worlds separate.
With a solid foundation of truly funny wordplay, emotive artwork, and a strong emotional core based in LGBTQ history, The Snagglepuss Chronicles is exactly the kind of smart and inclusive storytelling that we need more of.
The hottest ticket in town is celebrating its closing night, but Snagglepuss can’t bring himself to enjoy it. And who can really blame him? After all he is a gay man… erm, cat living in the ‘50s, and the Red Scare is in full swing sweeping through his social circles.
But while Rome is burning, Snagglepuss can’t help but continue to fiddle as he puts up blinders to the tumultuous times and responds to the news of his friends being questioned with a pithy response and more alcohol.
But while on paper the plot doesn’t sound very engaging, Russell’s script instantly empathizes with Snagglepuss’ plight as he has closed himself off to the outside world as much as he can, leading two lives as both a successful “married” playwright and another as hip man about town and a regular of the famous Stonewall club.
Though considerably less jokey and pointed as his Flintstones series, Russell still injects a very deliberate form of satire into the script, skewering “upstanding” citizens who will still rush out of a dinner reservation to see convicted spies put to death.
This is all funny stuff for sure, as is the quick preview of Snagglepuss’ closing play, which finds the actors donning hilarious rubber dog snouts and ears to portray the characters, but Russell tempers that humor with a deep-seated melancholy that hangs over the whole issue. With HUAC looming, even the outspoken Snagglepuss seems chained up, unable to speak out on the plight of homosexuals and other supposed “subversives.” Though lacking the outright absurdity of his earlier works, Mark Russell has shown a real growth and civic responsibility with this debut issue, and I applaud him for it.
But while Russell seems to have set aside whimsy for now, the art team of Mike Feehan, Mark Morales, and Paul Mounts definitely haven’t. Presenting equal parts period costumes and hilariously accurate anthropomorphic animals, Feehan bridges the gap well between Russell’s socially conscious script elements and the extremely silly idea of humans sharing the world with animals that walk, talk, and sass just like the rest of us. Think of this comic book as BoJack Horseman in the ‘50s.
Aided by the inks of Mark Morales and the syrupy sweet colors of Paul Mounts, the artwork strikes a neat balance between biopic and adult animation, a far cry from the mostly dry adaptation art of The Flintstones. Feehan’s attention to detail also translates to the expressions of the characters, which, for a group of animals, really look and feel human as they bicker, laugh, and go on about their day to day. Landing somewhere between furry kink art and an accurate portrayal of gay and theatre culture of the 1950s, Mike Feehan, Mark Morales, and Paul Mounts mix whimsy and realism in a delicious artistic cocktail.
As a reviewer, I try to be as objective as possible when I cover books, but as a bisexual man who has been starving for representative books like The Snagglepuss Chronicles, it is hard to toe that line completely. Thankfully, this debut also holds the distinction of being good and an accurately engaging depiction of the struggles of queer creatives in a time where just mentioning the word was dangerous, albeit with waaaay more cat people and a razor-sharp wit. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 isn’t nearly as incendiary as Mark Russell’s previous cartoon adaptations (yet), but it is still a breath of fresh air for a community that really, really needs it at the moment.